GRAVEL BIKE vs CYCLOCROSS: Looks the same, here’s the difference!

GRAVEL BIKE vs CYCLOCROSS: Looks the same, here’s the difference!

Gravel Bike vs Cyclocross seem to have a lot in common. So just what are the differences in a game of gravel vs cyclocross bike?

The road bike boom has been around for the last ten years. But now what is being crowded is a new type of road bike, the gravel bike. This trend originated in the United States. With the biggest competition, Dirty Kanza which is held in the city of Emporia, Kansas, United States every year.

This Dirty Kanza must conquer a 300 km route with gravel terrain. And attended by thousands of participants from the United States and abroad.

Gravel bikes have more capabilities than road bikes. With fatter tires it makes it more comfortable and can go through all terrain without fear of flat tires.

Well, what is similar to a gravel bike is a cyclocross bike. In appearance, both are using a road bike frame. With dropbar style handlebar. Tires are fat and rough tread. Much bigger than road bike tires that usually stick at 30c.

So, so as not to get confused, let’s learn the difference between a gravel bike and a cyclocross.

First, it should be understood that cyclocross is a bicycle race that requires participants to use bicycles with dropbar handlebars.

The short terrain is only about 2.5 km – 3.5 km but full offroad. Including having to pass through mud, sandy terrain, obstacles, very steep inclines that are impossible to pass by riding (must walk uphill while carrying a bicycle).


Despite the short track length, elite cyclocross races are usually completed in an hour! Well, cyclocross bikes were made to accommodate this race. The bike must be fast and can be carried when the track requires it.

While the gravel bike does not accommodate the interests of this cyclocross racing. The gravel bike is designed as a touring bike that is used all day in the saddle.

Of course, touring through all kinds of terrain. While carrying a lot of luggage for the purposes of staying more than a day. The main difference between a touring bike and a gravel bike is the ability to devour all terrain. Gravel bikes with fat tires are more capable.

So the gravel bike combines the ability to put your hands in various positions like a road bike with the ability to explore all terrain like a mountain bike.

In detail, what are the differences between gravel and cyclocross bikes?


Frame shape

Cyclocross bicycle frames must be lightweight. Because the racer has to carry the bike. That is, carbon or aluminum frames or a combination of both are perfectly normal for cyclocross.

While the gravel bike frame is heavier. Because this frame must be stiff and strong enough to carry goods. A pure cyclocross frame would have no extra holes in the seatstay and others for the fenders and racks. Because this bike is purely used for racing.

Storage Solutions

Unlike the gravel bike. Definitely a lot of extra holes for racks, fenders, extra bottlecages. A cyclocross race typically lasts between 30 and 90 minutes, and is ridden at very high intensity. So there’s no need for the rider to carry the supplies that one would typically take on a road ride or gravel ride.

The frame geometry differs greatly between cyclocross and gravel bikes. Cyclocross bikes typically have a headtube angle of 73 degrees to accommodate more agile and faster turns. Of course for racing purposes.

While gravel bikes will usually be more prone to one or two degrees to make it more stable for touring. Even some gravel bikes like the Fustle Causeway GR1 have a 69-degree headtube. The one that lays down is similar to the headtube mountain bike.

Aggressive Riding Position

The riding position is also different. With a headtube that lays further down combined with a shorter toptube, the gravel bike provides a more relaxed sitting position.

Gravel bikes have a longer chainstay. So there is enough space to carry panniers. Its length ranges at 465 mm. For cyclocross bikes used for racing, the chainstay length is typically 425 mm. cyclocross bike will also have shorter chainstays and a lower stack height, both of which combine for a more aggressive riding position and significantly more agile handling than a gravel bike

Although that is the size usually available in the market, the Specialized Diverge gravel bike has a chainstay length of 415mm instead. The goal is that the rear wheels get more traction when they have to conquer high incline offroad terrain.

Specialized expects the cyclist to use a bag attached to the saddle and a triangular frame to carry items. So don’t expect to bring panniers. The manufacturer from Morgan Hill, California, United States also provides the Sequoia variant which has a longer chainstay and has holes for racks and fenders.

Even so, there are several cyclocross bicycle manufacturers that produce bicycles with additional gravel-style holes. For example, the Pinnacle Arkose brand cyclocross bicycle.

This bike can be transformed by fitted with fatter tires and is referred to as an adventure bike (another nickname for a gravel bike).

UCI Recommended Tires

A regulation made by the world’s cycling body, UCI is that cyclocross bicycle tires cannot be more than 33 mm wide. So that there is room in the fork and chainstay for the mud that sticks to the tires when conquering the track.

In contrast to gravel bike which are usually fitted with tires that are fatter than the 33 mm size. The track 920 adventure tourer can be fitted with 2-inch wide tires. And Mason InSearchOf bikes can accommodate 60mm 700C tires!

Cannondale Topestone can be fitted with tires up to 37 mm in size. The Kona Rove NRB can be fitted with tires up to 47mm and a midsize mountain bike tire, 650B.

Lately, gravel bike manufacturers are competing to make bicycles that can accommodate wide tires. Of course this makes the difference between gravel and cyclocross bikes even further.

Tubeless tires are also increasingly being produced for these two “branch” of the new bicycle. Because with tubeless tires, it can be installed with low tire pressure. Serves to get traction on offroad terrain.

Gear comparison “not for racing, right?”

Cyclocross bikes use a 46/36 front gear combined with an 11-28 sprocket. While gravel bikes will sacrifice top speed to get a low ratio. Usually use a 50/34 chainring combined with an 11-32 sprocket.

But there are also those who use chainring 48/32, 46/30 or 42/28. Recent Shimano 105, Ultegra, and GRX GS derailleurs can accommodate 11-34 or even larger. Rarely gravel bikes use three chainrings in front. In fact, there are many choices of single chainring in front (1X or one by). For 2x drivetrains, popular chainrings combinations for gravel bikes include 50/34 and 48/32, and they’re usually paired with 11-34 or similar cassettes.

Gravel Bike vs Cyclocross Brakes

Every gravel bike produced today uses disc brakes. In addition to the advantages in braking when wet, muddy, and downhill, the disc brake also has no effect on wheels whose edges are scratched due to hitting a lot of rocky terrain.

The majority of cyclocross bikes also use a disc brake braking system. Even so, there are very few of these bikes that use cantilever brakes.


Pure cyclocross bikes are very narrow in use. Because of the specific frame model and its features. Maybe they were good for cyclocross racing, but the bikes were very limited with the use of fenders and racks.

In addition, cyclocross bikes also have a few gear combinations. And can’t accommodate fat tires. These things make cyclocross bikes unable to go allround.

For some people, the geometry of the cyclocross bike is also too aggressive. No problem for hour use or one lap race. But less than ideal for long-distance touring use of a day or more.

Indeed, gravel bikes take the idea of cyclocross bikes. But fitted with fatter tires (even fatter than those used by mountain bikes and hybrids).

With a very wide tooth ratio. Riding position is also very relaxed. It is suitable for touring all terrain for a long time.

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